In a proactive response to China’s dwindling birth rate, Beijing is extending coverage to include 16 types of assisted reproductive technology under the city’s healthcare system starting from July 1. This strategic move marks an important step in bolstering the nation’s falling fertility rate.
The scope of coverage will now encompass treatments like in-vitro fertilisation, embryo transplantation, and the freezing and storage of semen, according to Du Xin, the deputy director of Beijing’s Municipal Medical Insurance Bureau. This expansion of insurance coverage is one of the many initiatives being pursued by the Chinese government to stem the alarming decline in birth rates.
Recent data underscores the urgency of the situation. In the past year, the birth rate dropped to a record low of 6.77 per 1,000 people, with projections indicating further decline in 2023. This trend signifies the first population decrease China has witnessed in six decades.
In response to the declining birth rates, China’s National Health Commission has issued directives to provinces, urging them to revise their policies to support fertility rates. Following this, Liaoning, a province in northeast China, announced in May that it would include assisted reproductive technologies in its coverage from July 1.
The announcement from Beijing also precedes a significant court verdict. Teresa Xu, a 35-year-old single Chinese woman, is currently awaiting judgement after suing a Beijing public hospital. Xu’s case challenges the hospital’s refusal to freeze her eggs based on her unmarried status.
The concerns regarding China’s rapidly ageing population have elicited proposals from government political advisers. They suggested in March that single and unmarried women should be given access to services like egg freezing and in vitro fertilisation (IVF). At present, such fertility treatments are largely inaccessible to unmarried women due to national regulations requiring them to be married.
There has been some progress, with private clinics in provinces like Sichuan in southwest China permitting IVF procedures due to the falling birth rates. However, expanding fertility treatments nationwide could potentially strain limited fertility services. It is a delicate balance to strike, but China is resolute in confronting this challenge.
The steps taken by Beijing and other provinces could catalyze a surge in demand for fertility treatments in what is already the world’s biggest market. These actions provide hope to many individuals and couples struggling with fertility, who now see a future with greater opportunities for parenthood.
News based on Malay Mail